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The Man Who Found Himself is the kind of film that is light and enjoyable, but very easy to forget. John Beal, best remembered for his role as The Little Minister (1934), is likeable as a young surgeon disillusioned with his profession after a scandal earns him a suspension. Despite his character's inherent cockiness, Beal manages to maintain our sympathy throughout. This marked the film debut of Joan Fontaine, who is charming, if a little uncertain, as the pretty nurse who helps Beal's doctor "find himself". The rest of the cast is fine, particularly Billy Gilbert as a loquacious hobo and Jimmy Conlin as a "nosey" reporter. It is also interesting to note that the film is a reunion, of sorts, for Dwight Frye and Edward Van Sloan, who had co-starred several years earlier in Dracula (1931) and Frankenstein (1931). [Unfortunately, they don't get a chance to interact and their roles are woefully undernourished.] Despite the basic formulaic nature of the story, the script manages to be surprisingly fresh at times, particularly in the very "grown up" speech Jim's fiance (Jane Walsh) delivers when he asks her to run away with him. ["I'm sorry, Jim, I can't do it. I promised to marry Dr. James Stanton of Park Avenue. I'm not interested in country doctors."] And some of the special effect miniatures, like a train derailment and a hospital plane landing near the wreckage, while primitive by modern standards, are fun nonetheless. A nice little film and a diverting 67 minutes.
A young and rather unwise doctor gets into trouble through no fault of
his own. However, considering his past impulsiveness, everyone believes
the worst and so the doctor disappears--taking to the road as a hobo.
While this is a bit tough to believe since the difference between
society doctor and hobo is so extreme, the film is a rather
entertaining yarn about his gradual rise to respectability. In many
ways, it's reminiscent of LORD JIM, though in Jim's case, he HAD done
the dirty deed he was accused of and in this case the doctor really is
innocent and oddly chose to become a drop-out.
Anyone looking for sophisticated and believable entertainment should probably look elsewhere, as the plot of this drama is a bit contrived and predictable. Yet, despite this, I found the film to be very watchable and fun--probably because it had rather modest pretensions and was a low-budget (or "B") film. Given its pedigree and cast of unknowns, it was a decent film that is a bit better than just a time-passer. The only big name in the movie is Joan Fontaine--and this was made before she was an established star. You can tell this, by the way, because she speaks with her normal British accent--something you really don't hear in later films. In the films she made just a few years later, she either spoke in perfectly annunciated upper-class English or in an American accent.
Wow, as I write this, this film is 75 years old, and Joan Fontaine, one
of the stars, is still with us! Here she is just at the beginning of
her career as a nurse who falls for John Beal.
"The Man Who Found Himself" stars Beal as Dr. James Stanton, Jr., the son of a prominent doctor. He is also an amateur pilot. One night a married woman, a friend of his, begs him to fly her to Pittsburgh. The weather is bad and he hesitates, but relents. The plane crashes and she is killed. People assume the worst, that he and the woman were having an affair. His fiancée (Jane Walsh) breaks up with him because he wants to help poor people. Discouraged with the way his life is going, Stanton does what any man with a doctor's license would do: he hitchhikes to California and becomes a hobo.
Once there, he becomes an airplane mechanic and meets a pretty nurse (Fontaine) who, when an accident occurs, realizes that he's a doctor. She encourages him to turn his life around.
I actually watched this because of John Beal, whom I met over twenty years ago. The mid to late '30s were the high points of his film career. He was young and handsome with a lot of stage experience. He never made it to stardom but continued to work until four years before he died (1997).
This is a short film, fairly predictable, but worth seeing for the cast, which includes Philip Huston and George Irving as well.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I rather liked this film, although it did have a few problems.
The biggest problem was Joan Fontaine, who is so young here that if I didn't know she was in the film, I wouldn't have recognized her! Here, in her second starring role, I found her to be rather stiff and awkward, and not as asset to the film.
On the other hand, I thought John Beal was superb! I've never been very aware of him before, and I know that he never became an A list actor, but seeing him here, I'm not sure why.
The only other actor here whose acting is of note is George Irving. One of those character actors that you recognize but probably don't know his name. Quite a good performance as the father.
The story here is just unique enough to score a few extra points from me. A young, rather brilliant doctor is repeatedly chided by his respected doctor-father, particularly for his interest in flying. Rather than continue in the charade of working in a field he has come to despise, he walks away from medicine and goes to work for a small airline out west. Joan Fontaine, a nurse, falls in love with him even before finding out who he actually is. She attempts to bring son and father back together, and oddly enough that happens during a train wreck, which is nicely staged.
There are places all the action doesn't seem quite logical, but overall the story works. The only significant problem is Joan Fontaine...she "gets by". In my view it is not until 1940-41 that she comes into her own as an actress with "Rebecca" and "Suspicion".
Give this one a try. It's no masterpiece, but it's quite entertaining.
An outstanding but little known actor, John Beal, uplifts his role as
Jim Stanton aka Jones to high quality in this b movie. He confidently
delivers a sure-footed and solid performance. Joan Fontaine is stunning
at a young age as the nurse/love-interest who very much has a mind of
her own and crusades on behalf of wrongly accused Jim.
It is interesting to see early flying doctor concepts, but what almost amounts to a "flying hospital" seems extremely impractical, whether in 1937 or now. In fact the whole overall movie is mostly far-fetched and not believable. However, in this case the good direction and acting overcome the negatives and make "The Man Who Found Himself" worth your viewing time for entertainment only, not expecting any sort of classic.
Young New York City surgeon, and amateur pilot, John Beal (as James
Stanton) rubs the older doctors at "General Hospital" the wrong way.
Most of all, they consider his interest in flying an inappropriate
hobby. After Mr. Beal gives the wife of another doctor a lift in his
plane, it crashes; and, the young woman dies. The accident becomes a
national scandal, with the unwed Beal becoming romantically linked with
his married passenger. After being put on probation, Beal gives up his
privileged life, hitchhikes to California, and becomes a hobo. He is
recognized by pilot friend Philip Huston (as Dick Miller), who helps
Beal get back up on his feet. Then, Mr. Huston, and pretty blonde nurse
Joan Fontaine (as Doris King) help Beal turn his life around.
Ms. Fontaine receives a special introduction in this, her first co-starring role. She is not only very obviously like her famous sister, but also very engaging. Fontaine's performances would grow more individual and adept, with increasingly better material. Although never growing into stars of Fontaine's stature, Beal and Huston are also quite good. It's nice to see the expressive Beal, who presided over the witchcraft trial of Quentin Collins on "Dark Shadows", as a leading man. And, Huston essays a very convincing "drunk" scene.
***** The Man Who Found Himself (1937) Lew Landers ~ John Beal, Joan Fontaine, Philip Huston
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I like the idea of this story even though it is handled in a clumsy manner typical of many a "B" movie of the day. For example, the reporter "Nosey" seems to be set up as someone who could cause big trouble for the hero, but his role is rather inconsequential in the end. The only drama the script writers were able to dream up seemed to be via plane crashes and train wrecks. I saw this movie described in my local TV listings as being about a doctor who gets into trouble and who then becomes a "hitchhiker with a beard." I wanted more hitchhiking and more beard in the story. In the end I think I would have preferred for Jim to have stayed lost.
RKO was trying to boost its starlet JOAN FONTAINE when they cast her as
a flying nurse who is strong-willed enough to make a doctor (JOHN BEAL)
come to terms with running away from responsibilities in this little
programmer. TCM aired it as a stepping-stone in the career of Joan
Fontaine is earnest and does an acceptable job, nothing more, and John Beal is okay as her love interest. But it's obvious that PHILIP HUSTON (who has the appearance and cocky manners of a young James Garner) is the actor who should have shared top billing with Fontaine. Whatever happened to this handsome actor? Why didn't RKO promote him, along with Fontaine? He showed skill as a light comedian.
These are the kind of thoughts that went through my head as I watched this rather tepid drama which never quite lives up to the stark promise of its title. The story itself is rather tiresome, only occasionally coming to life because of Fontaine's spirited heroine.
She photographs prettily as the nurse and wears her serious expressions skillfully, suggesting that there was more to be tapped at a future date. Beal never did go on to a distinguished career and his performance here shows why. Strictly lackluster.
But whatever happened to Philip Huston? Evidence here is that he should have had a worthwhile film career.
Trivia note: Watch for Dwight Frye (of "Dracula") as the out of control patient aboard the airplane.
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